Изображения страниц

sophers, or were by nature formed to be such. The best essay on poetry was written by the greatest philosopher of antiquity; the verses of the Virgil of our days are replete with a philosophy as sound as it is agreeable ;- finally, I have seen a king, who, although he has gained a dozen battles, is not the less a philosopher and a man of letters, sitting with Aihalie and the Commentaries of Cæsar on the same table, and doubting of which of these two performances us would prefer to have been the author.'

The next piece in this collection is the soliloquy of Bererly, from Moore's well-known tragedy of the Gamester. The French author's intent was to render this scene less terrible, and more touching, than it is according to its representation on the English stage.

In the criticism on Rousseau's Emile, we meet with the following just observation :

• It is said, and perhaps with reason, that no man ever made the greatest possible use of his genius : but it may be said perhaps with more truth, that no writer displays to his readers his real genius. Some make a parade of the thoughts of others; some keep their minds in constraint and captivity. Those have formed no decidei opinion ; and these fear to declare them.

• Rousseau is perhaps the only one who forms a distinct class: the fear of shocking received opinions, of alienating by paradoxes, of passing for a cynic, of creating enemies and trouble, stop not him. With the public he has been regardless of all ranks and distinctions ; and this freedom, which in him is happily conjoined with great talents, gives to him a prodigious advantage. Diogenes was perfectly at his ease, like Rousseau ; and to this circumstance it is owing that he said more things worthy of being remembered than any philosopher of antiquity, although he cannot be esteemed the greatest of philosophers. " Yet it is true that, if all the world were, like Rousseau, to act the part of Diogenes, we should be obliged to peep into many tubs before we met a Diogenes like him.'

In a letter from D'ALEMBERT to Condorcet, on the death of Madame Geoffrin, an interesting anecdote concerning Fontes nelle is related :

• As she lived only to do good, she wished all the world to resemble her : she was careful, however, lest her benevolence should importune that of others. “ When I relate (said she) the situation of an unfortunate person, for whom I wish to obtain relief, I do not break open the door of pity; I only place myself vear to it, and wait till it is willingly opened to me.' " Her illustrious friend, Fontenelle, was the only one towards whom she behaved differently. This philosopher, so celebrated for his talents, and in such great request for his amiable and entertaining qualities; without vices, and alinost without faults, since he was without warmth and without passion; had the virtues only of a cold heart, virtuges which were soft and of little activity, and which, to be called into exertion, needed some degree of provocation : but a small degree of provocation was


all that they needed. Madame Geoffrin once went to the house of her friend, and painted with interest and feeling the situation of some unfortunate persons whom she wished to serve : They are much to be pitied," said the philosopher, adding a few words on the misery of human life, and changing the subject of conversation. Madame Geoffrin suffered him to have his way : but, on quitting bim, she said, “ Give me fifty louis for these poor people :


Certainly," said Fontenelle, and went to fetch the fifty louis, which he gave to her, and which he never mentioned again ; ready on the morrow to manifest the same supineness of charity, unless prompted to substane tial benevolence. The benevolence of the philosopher may appear, perhaps, somewhat dry: but at least it cannot be charged with ostentation. May Heaven grant all men benevolence, even if it be dry as this, but let it be as simple ; and may the human race bless the active virtue which knows, like the worthy friend of Fontenelle, how to rouse this sentiment into action, in those hearts in which it reposes

and waits to be awaken!'

A letter from the King of Prussia to D'ALEMBERT, also on the death of this worthy Madame Geoffrin, contains the observations of true philosophy; such as experience, as well as books, must conduce to form. We shall extract it:

66 Potsdam, July 9, 1776. “ I condole with you on the loss of a person to whom you were so much attached. The 'wounds of the heart are most sensibly felt; and, in spite of the fine maxims of philosophy, time alone can cure them. Man is more the creature of feeling than of reason. I havé experienced, but too much for my own happiness, what it is that we suffer on account of such losses. The best remedy is to tear yourself violently from a mournful idea, which takes too deep a root in the soul. Seek some mathematical pursuit which will demand much attention, and will abstract you from those dismal ideas which inces: santly recur. If I knew any better remedies, I would give them to you. Cicero, in attempting to obtain relief from reflection on the loss of his dear Tullia, forced himself to compose, and wrote several tracts, of which some have come down to us. Our reason is too weak to overcome the grief of a mortal wound; we must give something to nature, and say to ourselves that, “ at our time of life we should take consolation, since we must shortly join the objects of our regret.' I receive with pleasure the hope which you give me of your company during some months of the approaching year. I will then endeavour, to the utmost of my power, to efface from your mind those melancholy ideas to which a cruel event has given birth. We will philosophize together, on the nothingness of life, on the folly of men, and on the vanity of stoicism.

“ These are inexhaustible subjects, and will furnish matter for many volumes. In the mean time, I beseech you, endeavour to prevent an excess of afliction from injuring your health ; for I am too much interested in your well-being, to suffer the loss of it with indifference!


This letter is followed by three others from the King of Prussia, which contain the most just observations; and they are succeeded by a letter from the Empress of Russia, on the oc, casion of D'ALEMBERT's refusal to undertake the education of her son.

In a letter from Diderot to D'ALEMBERT, the writer repre. sents the sale of his library in a manner very different from that of Professor Robison :

• The enemies of philosophy are doomei to feel chagrin on chagrin: the year is unlucky for them. Here is an event wlich will not give them more joy than your work *. By means of Grimm, I had made proposals to the Empress of Russia to buy my library, Do you know what she has done? She takes it ; she orders me to be paid what I asked for it; she then leaves it to me, and gives me an additional pension of an hundred pistoles ! With what attention, with what delicacy, with what grace, are all her acts of getrosity performed !

A subsequent letter contains D'ALEMBERT'S refusal of the presidentship of the Berlin Academy, and a pension. There is no cause for wonder with respect to this refusal, if we examine his mode of life and his particular opinions. If he had accepted the King of Prussia's offer, he would indeed hare gained distinction : but he wanted not distinction among courtiers and statesmen. He would also have gaindd wealth: but he had no gratification in hoarding; and for the pleasures which riches could purchase, he had no relish. Had he left Paris, he must have disengaged himself from every tie and charm of his life; the intercourse of literary men; his mest choice society; his friendships ; and his leisure; the Abbé Barruel might add, the delicious occupation of working at the downfall of Christianity. There is no doubt that the refusal, according to his own confession, cost him very little.

In Volume II. are two papers by Mademoiselle Espinasse, in the manner of Sterne. The subject is affecting, but the essays do not please, -chiefly from want of intrinsic merit, and partly perhaps from the circumstance of their being professed imitations ; hence we cannot divest ourselves of the idea that the pathos is constrained, and the tenderness assumed. On such occasions, we do not perceive that the heart of the writer is engaged.

The two pieces to the memory of Mademoiselle Espinasse abound in beauties of a high order: our limits do not permit us to give large extracts from them; yet large extracts they ought to be, since pathetic pieces suffer by mutilation. Critical D'ALEMBERT's work on the destruction of the Jesuits. Ree.


Temarks, and sententious observations, preserve their force when apart from the work to which they were attached : but, to know whether the author of a pathetic discourse speaks the true language of nature, and passion, we must listen to his tale of woe, and be instructed in the course of his complaint: we must sympathize, be interested, and be prepared for the excesses of grief and the elevations of passion. In a passage which here occurs, M. D'ALEMBERT seems to have united the iofty philosophic refiection of a heathen hero, with the nice and refined feeling of a modern sentimentalist. He thanks nature for having, amid ail our misfortunes, left us two precious resources, death and melancholy; deuth, to put an end to evils which distract us; and melancholy, of which the mournful soothing enables us to support life amid the evils which af. fict us!

In the latter part of this composition, the author appears to us to stoop from the height of his grief, in order to compliment the King of Prussia.

In the article College, he notes very justly the useless attempts of moderns to write elegant Latin; and in the same article, he praises an observation as very just and philosophic, which was made by one of his friends, respecting the study of history: the observation is on the propriety of teaching and studying history backwards; that is to say, we should begin with our own times, and thence mount up to past ages. This observation we have seen elsewhere ; we believe, in Mr. Belsham's publications; and Hume's practice may, serve, in some measure, to confirm it.

In the article Elocution, the writer observes that the perfection of the French language originated from the poets. Dr. Johnson has made the same remark with respect to the English tongue, and has moreover added the reason why poets are naturally the first improvers of a language.

This second volume is terminated by the three Dissertations, on Taste, before mentioned; and by Marmontel's eloquent Eloge.

The list of errata is but scanty, and there is need of a very copious one.

ART. IX. Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, &c. i.e. Memoirs of

the Paris Academy of Sciences for 1790.
[ Article concluded from our last App. p. 529-545.]

PAPERS ON CHEMISTRY and NATURAL HISTORY. Memoir on the Variety of the Sulphat of Mercury, on the Precipisation of this Salt by Ammoniac, and on the Properties of a niw APP. Rev. VOL. XXIX.



Triple Salt, or an Ammoniaco-Mercurial Sulphat. By A. F.

FOURCROY. IN N attending to the phænomena produced by the precipitation

of mercury from the sulphuric acid, by means of ammoniac, M. FourcroY found that the properties of the sulphat of mercury itself varied considerably; not only according to the relative proportions of the acid and the metal, or the degree of oxygenation of the former, but in proportion to the heat eme ployed in uniting them. Hence he was led to examine the varieties of the sulphat of mercury, in a previous set of experiments. He determines one to be a pure or neutral sulphat; it crystallizes in prisms, is soluble in 500 parts of cold water, and forms a grey precipitate with lime and fixed alkali; the nitric acid does not decompose it; and the muriatic changes it almost entirely into dulcified mercury. The other variety, or turbeth mineral, is a sulphat of mercury with an excess of oxyd; it is yellow, soluble in 2000 parts of water, and forms a grey precipitate with alkalis ; it is in a great measure decomposed by the nitric acid; and the muriatic converts it into an oxygenated muriat of mercury, or corrosive sublimate. The third variety contains an excess of sulphuric acid.

The result of the author's experiments on the precipitation of the mercury is, that ammoniac decomposes only a part of the mercurial sulphats, but that fixed alkalis decompose them entirely; that a triple salt, or an ammoniaco-mercurial sulphat, is formed by the union of the sulphat of ammoniac with the undecomposed part of the mercurial sulphat; that this ammoniaco-mercurial sulphat contains more ammoniac and oxyd of mercury than the sulphuric acid would appear capable of saturating, considering the proportions of sulphat of mercury, and of sulphat of ammoniac, separately; that this triple salt, constituted by an alkaline and metallic base, united together with the sulphuric acid, possesses properties different from those of the two salts examined separately, and is by no means a simple combination of sniphat of ammoniac with sulphat of mercury; that, in the formation of the ammoniaco-mercurial sulphat, by the action of ammoniac on the neutral and yellow sulphats of mercury, a portion of the oxyd of mercury is separated, which becomes black and reducible by the action of light, and which proves that a portion of the ammoniac has been decomposed, in order to effect this reduction; and lastly, that this phæno. menon, produced by the union of the oxyd of mercury with ammoniac, does not take place when the alkali is combined with the acid sulphat, because, in this last case, there is no separation of the oxyd of mercury.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »